Why Apple had to kill the Xserve

Why Apple had to kill the Xserve

Summary: For Apple to grow, the Xserve had to die.

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When I wrote about Apple officially killing off their enterprise server product line, Xserve, last November, I was assured by Apple loyalists that there would soon be something bigger and better coming from their favorite hardware company. My inbox was flooded with messages telling me to be on the lookout for a new Apple server product that addressed my concerns about actual datacenter issues, such as rack mounting capabilities, hot swappable drives and power supplies, and lights out management.

It's time to face facts, folks. Apple is not an enterprise hardware company. They make consumer computing stuff and any corporate penetration is a reflection of their success in the consumer world, not the result of a carefully thought out plan of enterprise dominance. I'm pretty sure that Apple has far more people working on the design of the iPhone 6 than they ever had, or will ever likely have, worrying about any product in the enterprise hardware space.

And that is why the Xserve had to die. Take a look at this image of Steve Jobs standing in front of a picture of his new server room (thanks to engadget.com) and you'll see that there isn't an Xserve, or any derivative hardware, anywhere in sight. In fact, the room appears to have rack after rack of HP Proliant DL 380 G7 servers. And I'm pretty sure that they aren't even running OS X Server (which Apple has never used in any of their datacenters as the primary OS). 

This isn't to say that there aren't lots of good reasons for this choice; in fact Apple seems to be doing the same thing I do when family and friends ask me about what computer equipment to buy (on an infinitely larger scale); they are buying from the vendor that can provide the best service and requires the least handholding from the customer.

Say what you will about Microsoft, but they have always run their datacenters on their own software and products.  When they have used third-party software they were honest about it, as well as their efforts to replace any third-party product they found necessary with their own software.  In the vernacular, they "ate their own dog food."  And this was one thing that Apple was never, ever going to do in the datacenter.

From the point that Apple decided to focus on cloud services and build giant datacenters, Xserve, and realistically, OS X Server, was dead for all but the most rabid fan. If you can't point to your own gigantic sever infrastructure and point out why your enterprise hardware and software is the best, how would you ever expect to sell it to your customers?

Buyers of enterprise technology have been dealing with the smoke and mirrors of the enterprise equipment sales process for almost 50 years. They know that regardless of how pretty the magician's assistant is, their jobs are on the line for their purchase decisions.  A vendor that can't even commit to their own product isn't going to get much sympathy from these guys.

Topics: Storage, Apple, Data Centers, Hardware, Servers

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74 comments
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  • A good laugh

    Apple pulled out of server hardware, disappointing but understandable. MS has used it's OS for it's servers, even when the cost and reliability made it a bad choice. We remember MS moving Hotmail to windows when it was acquired. <br><br>Data centres run unix, period. And not the desktop version in Mac OS X. Only a fool would run a data centre with an OS that has a GUI bolted in. <br><br>It appears the author missed the big server news from the keynote, Lion Server is now under USD80. Yes that's right a unlimited client OS with groupware functionality for under a hundred bucks. <br><br>We wouldn't use it in our data centres, after all that's what we have Linux, AIX and Solaris for, but as a replacement for SBS the price including Apple hardware (this market never used rack mount anyway) it breathtaking.<br><br>Only one loser I can think of;-)
    Richard Flude
    • Data centers certainly don't run Unix, period!

      @Richard Flude Azure - probably the most ambitious cloud project there is - runs entirely on some variant of Microsoft's NT engine. Of course, what few people realize is that Windows GUI isn't bolted on, either. Win32 is a subsystem, and not the core OS.
      Mac_PC_FenceSitter
      • RE: Why Apple had to kill the Xserve

        @rbethell
        And the 5 people think Azure is a good platform are about all Windows can support. Last we all heard, Azure's uptake beyond MS was, well, abysmal.
        itguy08
      • RE: Why Apple had to kill the Xserve

        @rbethell What OS does bing use?
        wzrobin
      • RE: Why Apple had to kill the Xserve

        @rbethell That's the case for all operating systems, in case you missed it. The GUI is not the OS.
        I12BPhil
      • Don't be silly

        If, like IE, you can't remove it, is part of the core OS. A web browser in an OS core RAOFL.

        MCSE wisdom is priceless;-)
        Richard Flude
      • RE: Why Apple had to kill the Xserve

        @Richard Flude: Please, sir, try and keep up with the times.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Server_2008#Server_Core
        BGunnells
    • RE: Why Apple had to kill the Xserve

      @Richard Flude <br><br>According to Apple (at <a href="http://www.apple.com/macosx/server/how-to-buy/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.apple.com/macosx/server/how-to-buy/</a>) current Mac users who want to run Lion Server first have to be running Snow Leopard Server, which is $499. Not exactly an $80 upgrade.
      David Chernicoff
      • Conformation from Apple

        True Apple's upgrade notice has this. But what is the process for Macs bought with Lion. Surely you don't have to buy SL as well? Please confirm with Apple. Thanks
        Richard Flude
      • RE: Why Apple had to kill the Xserve

        @David Chernicoff - That'll be $50 David, not $500:
        "Lion Server is coming to the Mac App Store in July for $49.99."
        ideasplace
      • Lion Server upgrade directions

        @David Chernicoff :
        That page is for users of Snow Leopard server: You have to use a sufficiently recent version of the OS for the Mac App store to be able to do its thing. However, if you're not a server user, you can go SL 10.6.6+ -> Lion -> Lion server without paying the old price.
        daveedvdv
      • RE: Why Apple had to kill the Xserve

        @David Chernicoff<br><br>This is NOT what tho Apple site says. It says if you HAVE SL server, you can just buy Lion and Lion server for $49.99 and go. It is not clear if an alternate route is wait to buy Lion for $29.99 and install the same Lion extensions on top of that.
        DeusXMachina
      • RE: Why Apple had to kill the Xserve

        @David Chernicoff

        Yes, you are correct. And yet, wrong at the same time :-)

        Current Mac users do need to be running Snow Leopard Server before they can upgrade to Lion Server. Specifically, the need to be running 10.6.6, 10.6.7 or 10.6.8. But that's only because it's with those versions that they can access the Mac Apple Store in order to download Lion Server. They could, in fact, download it with any existing client Mac, burn it to CD/DVD or copy it to a USB stick and then 'upgrade' or carry out a fresh install to an existing or new server.

        The client version of Lion is now available for purchase on a USB stick. I suspect Lion server will also be made available in the same way thus negating the need to either have Snow Leopard Server at $499 pre-installed or, indeed, any other Mac (client or server) in order to download it.
        Costas_I
    • I might have jumped the gun re pricing

      May required SL server before upgrade. Please confirm.

      Lion appears to act as a CAL free terminal server with the per user screen sharing feature. Nice!
      Richard Flude
      • RE: Why Apple had to kill the Xserve

        @Richard Flude If you need a Mac to connect to the Lion terminal server, then what's the point?
        Stark_Industries
    • Richard Flude spreading BS? Who would have guessed?

      @Richard Flude
      Apple pulled out of server hardware, disappointing but understandable. MS has used it's OS for it's servers, as the cost and reliability made it a good choice. We remember MS moving Hotmail to windows when it was acquired, and it became more reliable.

      The only loser here I can think of is Apple. Sure they have to swallow their pride, (and probally spin it as positive) but in the end, if they can't even run their own business on OS X, why should a company looking for business servers even consider Apple?
      Will Pharaoh
      • Where's the Boeing apparel line?

        <ul><i>why should a company looking for business servers even consider Apple? </i></ul><p>I don't think they should. Isn't that what the article says, that Apple stopped making business servers because they aren't an "enterprise" hardware company?<p>
        One may as well ask why people looking for refrigerators should consider Apple.
        Robert Hahn
    • Edit: Nevermind. [nt]

      [nt]
      olePigeon
    • When you start to run big boy apps

      you run them on *nix.
      OpEdMunkey
    • RE: Why Apple had to kill the Xserve

      @Richard Flude

      Really? Unix huh. Well, the score is 74 - 4 in favor of Windows Server

      http://www.zdnet.com/blog/microsoft/behind-the-idc-data-windows-still-no-1-in-server-operating-systems/5408

      You keep telling yourself Unix is running the world, and the rest of us will continue to run profitable businesses on the Windows platform...
      omdguy